Thursday, June 7, 2012

Marion County's Natural Springs

One of the unique features of Florida’s landscape is the presence of natural artesian springs. Not just a few here and there, but as many as 700 springs exist around the state. They provide beauty, a place for recreation and life-giving water to the residents and visitors of Florida.

Underneath the State of Florida is an aquifer made of limestone. As the water cycle goes, rain water is absorbed into the ground, permeates through layers of limestone by which it is cleaned, finds its way to underground rivers and then resurfaces through openings in the aquifer called springs. Sometimes this is a small, trickling flow. At other times, it is enough water to create and sustain a river. The difference is in the spring’s magnitude, the amount of water flowing per unit of time. In Florida, there are 33 first magnitude springs. Silver Springs, the largest artesian spring in the world, is a first magnitude spring. It produces 550 million gallons of water a day and serves as the headwaters of the Silver River, located just east of Ocala.

Spring water, in general, is 99.8% pure with a temperature of 72° Fahrenheit year round.


In the State of Florida there are 12 state parks named after springs. These parks were established to both protect the springs and give public access to them. Ginnie Springs State Park features eight first and second magnitude springs. Along with the springs themselves, there are extensive underwater passages which can be explored. Because spring water is crystal clear, a spring and spring fed river offer explorers the perfect environment for viewing cave structures, aquatic life and more. Located west of Gainesville, Ginnie Springs is the “most popular freshwater diving location in the world,” according to In addition to swimming, snorkeling and diving in the springs or the rivers they produce, recreationists can also enjoy the natural areas around the springs with hiking, biking, camping, and more. At Manatee Springs State Park, visitors in the winter have a chance to swim with manatees, gentle “sea cow” creatures which come to this area between November and April for the constant (and “warm”) 72 degree water of the springs.

The springs in Florida have long provided opportunities for business. Over 125 years ago, local Ocala resident Hullam Jones realized that people would enjoy a closer and clearer look at the beauty of Silver Springs, the Silver River and the wildlife living therein. He crafted a canoe with a glass panel in the bottom. Guests were delighted at what they saw as he would row out into the river. Over time this simple, yet clever, idea grew into one of central Florida’s first major tourist attractions. By the 1950s as many as 800,000 visitors were coming to Silver Springs Attraction each year. Today, locals and tourists alike still visit Silver Springs Attraction for the glass bottom boat rides.

Another business that developed more recently is bottling drinking water. The purity of the spring water is ideal for this. Additionally, recreational opportunities available both in and around the springs support eco-tourism in the state.

In the early 1900s, people started coming to Florida for spring-side health resorts. One such resort, established in the late 1940s, is Warm Mineral Springs Wellness Center in south Florida. In this case, however, the spring water is 87° Fahrenheit year round. This warm water, combined with its high mineral content (3rd highest mineral content in the world), is said to provide healing properties for those who enter. In addition, the high mineral content of the water provides a greater buoyancy factor, making it easier for aquatic exercise. This spring is not, unfortunately, as suitable for scuba diving as the clear springs because the minerals tend to quickly deteriorate the metal parts of a diver’s equipment.

The aquifer is a life source for residents of Florida who draw upon it for drinking water. Because of this, it is extremely important to take care of the aquifer. Although a person may not live directly next to a river or spring, his and her actions can still affect the aquifer. Drawing out too much water, as well as polluting allowing excessive amounts of chemicals to absorb into the ground, is harmful to the aquifer (and, in turn, to ourselves). In order to minimize the negative effect on the aquifer, initiatives such as Florida Yards & Neighborhoods (FYN) have been established. FYN purposes to educate residents on how to minimize the need for water in their yards by utilizing Florida-friendly plants (those which are adapted to the local climate and therefore require less manual watering and fewer chemicals). On Top of the World Communities is a Florida Yards & Neighborhood award winning community because of its commitment to such practices in the residential and commercial landscaped areas.

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